Three weeks in and I have had 3 sunburns, opened countless coconuts, and have started on an endless journey of familiarizing myself with Kaua`i, the people who live here, and the culture that they are fighting to preserve. I have the privilege of spending my summer as an intern at Limahuli Garden and Preserve. Limahuli is a special place for many reasons, it is home to ancient terraces and house sites, a safe haven for endangered and endemic plants, and a battle front for the fight against invasive species. But for me what makes Limahuli really special is the fact that so many people care so deeply for it. One of my bosses calls herself a “lifer”. Her connection to Limahuli is so strong that she never wants to leave.
It is incredible that a stretch of land can inspire such devotion in so many people. But perhaps that should not be surprising, perhaps what should surprise us is that people can disregard, and harm the land which makes life possible for humanity. It becomes too easy for people to forget the importance of a healthy earth when we get all of our food packaged in stores, instead of growing it ourselves, when we have our children spend the first quarter of their lives trapped indoors, instead of teaching them appreciation and enjoyment of the wonders of nature.
In many ways I am discovering that Hawaiian culture is superior to the mindset of the mainland. Working at Limahuli has taught me a new outlook on conservation work. Instead of removing people from nature, I am learning that people can be part of the solution. Here we are working to bring more people in to the preserve. Instead of focusing on people’s negative impact, we teach people how they can care for the land, that they can be part of the solution. I love watching the groups of young children come in as they learn about their native plants, and give 110% in mulching, or whatever other care the garden needs.